The launch of The Black Swan Effect



Here’s the link to The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church on Amazon. Both paperback and Kindle editions are available.

I’m so grateful to the team of women–my wonderful friends Peggy Batcheller-Hijar, Jan Diss, Katie Driver, Suzette Lambert and Julie Ross–we’ve worked together on this project for four years now. And I’m very thankful for the guys who’ve stood with us, contributed chapters, encouraged us–Neil Cole, Dave Ferguson, Michael Frost, Alan Hirsch, Floyd McClung, Frank Viola and Jon Zens. And Lynne Hybels wrote the foreword of the book for someone she’d never met… What a blessing!

Although our technical launch date is tomorrow (Saturday, April 5th) there are already various other blogs and articles about  it on the Internet. (See here, here, here and here).

Most readers of my blog are familiar with the The Black Swan Effect. But if you’re new, here’s a little about it–taken from the “blurb” on Amazon.

The Black Swan Effect presents a vision for what can happen as men and women work together in the Kingdom of God.  The authors (both male and female) encourage men to champion women as equal co-laborers and partners in the harvest. They also give women permission and inspiration to follow the Lord—to reach their own full potential and encourage others to fulfill God’s call. The Black Swan Effect equips both men and women to bring an informed and positive contribution to the increasingly crucial conversation on gender in the church.

If you are like most Christians, one of three primary motivations propels you into this discussion about women in ministry:

  • Many Christians have come to the conclusion that there is no better way to increase the size of God’s missions workforce than to fully deploy women to use their spiritual gifts and God-given capacities.
  • Some are asking theological questions. They are investigating how the Bible portrays women, especially women leaders. How did Jesus treat women? Were the New Testament writers—in particular, the apostle Paul—misogynists? Are there alternative interpretations for some of the really difficult passages of Scripture?
  • Others are drawn to this discussion because of issues related to justice and human dignity around the world as well as in the church. As they study Scripture, they are assured that God creates all men and women in his image, and they can’t even imagine a God who would discriminate against women.

Fourteen different authors contribute to these themes, each writing from their own area of passion and expertise, the whole being woven together into a single narrative. Encouraging stories of women who are doing marvelous things for God today accompany each chapter.

Change is coming! Let’s get ready.

If you purchase The Black Swan Effect, readers of my blog can also get a free download of a short (25 page) e-book entitled “A Simple Guide to the Challenging Scriptures for Women.” (I’m using an honor system here. If you purchase the book, click on the link for the guide.) It’s a quick reference to four of the Scriptures that have proven most troublesome when it comes to women in ministry through the years.


Update on the book on women

Most people who read this blog know that, although its main emphasis is usually on simple/organic church, for several months I’ve been writing consistently about women. The reason? For the past two years, I’ve been compiling a book on women in the Kingdom. That process is very now very nearly finished. Just the final details on the last chapter to go before the manuscript is ready to send to the publisher (YAY!)

Here’s a little history behind the book.

Five years ago, recognizing my own need for peer fellowship, I reached out to a few women who play a significant role in the body of Christ. We connected via conference call. As our fellowship grew deeper, a natural discussion topic was the role of women in the church. Between us, we were aware of many women who desire everything God has for them, but yet who hang back, waiting for a man to take the lead. What could we do to give them permission to follow the Holy Spirit with all their hearts no matter where he led, even if it meant them taking the initiative? How could we encourage men to stand with them?

We knew from experience that in the church in the West, with notable exceptions, women have been sidelined and marginalized. Because they’ve been taught that they’re stepping out of line if they initiate or lead, they have settled back into passivity. Men lead; women follow. That’s the godly pattern. The result? The mission of Jesus suffers as a large portion of the workforce for the harvest waits for men to take the initiative.

On a couple of occasions, our team of women went away together for several days of prayer and fellowship. Always we came back to the idea that God longs to free women into their destiny, that if they were released, the workforce for the Kingdom of God would potentially double. The obvious follow-up question: is there anything we can do to inspire and empower other women?

Then came a weekend when God spoke to a larger group of 12 of us about Deborah and Barak. As a result of studying that story, we decided to approach some men who we knew stand with us in our beliefs about the role of women. We recognized that if a group of women tackled this subject, we would be perceived as feminists with an agenda, but if both men and women were involved, it had the potential of contributing to a Kingdom movement.

Many men actively advocate on behalf of women. Some take every opportunity to speak about the injustice that exists in the church and do everything they can to promote women. Others have made the study of the Scriptures concerning women a priority.  Still others take practical steps to hold open the doors allowing women in ministry. Several pledged to stand with us and together we would seek to release women.

The group of half a dozen women finally concluded that we would write a book together, and that we would ask men to contribute.

We approached several men who agreed to share from their particular area of interest and expertise. We are so grateful to them for their willingness to identify with us and to actively champion the cause of women.

The final list of contributors to the book apart from myself:

Peggy Batcheller-Hijar, Neil Cole, “Jan Diss,”  Katie Driver, Dave Ferguson, Michael Frost, Alan Hirsch, Suzette Lambert, Floyd McClung, Julie Ross, Frank Viola, and  Jon Zens




Eve was deceived…

As a  young Christian I was taught that  because women are more prone to deception than men, therefore men should be the teachers. Adam was created before Eve, and therefore all women should be in submission to male leadership–whether that’s husband, pastor or some other Christian man. (I shudder even now to think how, albeit unwillingly, I swallowed these maxims. But I wanted to be a good Christian woman, and if that’s what it took…)

The idea comes from 1 Timothy 2

Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.(vv 12-14 NKJV)

Two incontrovertible facts:

  1. Eve was deceived and then sinned.
  2. Adam was formed first, then Eve.

Let’s review the background from this letter. Paul was writing to combat heresy in the church in Ephesus (I Tim 1:3).  In Acts 20, Paul had warned the Ephesian elders that false teachers would come in, including some men who would distort the truth. The book of 1 Timothy is full of warnings against false teaching:

  • People were spending their time in meaningless discussions, wanting to be known as teachers of the law (1:6-7).
  • Hymenaeus and Alexander are two examples who had deliberately violated their consciences and shipwrecked their faith and Paul had  thrown them out (1:20).
  • In the last times some would follow deceptive spirits and demonic teachings, saying it’s wrong to be married or eat certain foods (4:1-3).
  • Paul exhorts Timothy not to waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales but instead to train for godliness (4:7).
  • Some younger widows had already gone astray to follow Satan (5:15).
  • People who contradicted Paul and Timothy’s teaching were arrogant and lacked understanding, stirring up arguments that resulted in jealosy, division, slander and evil suspicion. Their minds were corrupt and they were using a show of godliness to become wealthy (6:2-10).
  • Paul gave a final exhortation to Timothy to avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who have wandered from the faith.

Again, the background to 1 Timothy is to deal with false teaching in a culture that was dominated by a female-centered religious cult.

Jon Zens in his excellent book,What’s With Paul and Women? makes the following points:

  • “First” is a function of time, not of superiority. Nowhere in the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 where both Adam and Eve are given the command to have dominion over creation, or in I Timothy 2:12, is there evidence that women are to be subordinate to men.
  • The worship of Artemis, goddess of the Ephesians, was a female-dominated cult ruled by women priests that included public sexual displays and fancy clothing and jewelry.
  • This cult taught that Artemis was born before her twin, Apollo, and that women, as the superior gender, therefore could dominate men.
  • Women in Ephesus looked to Artemis, the mother goddess. for protection–for their virginity, for aid in barrenness and for help in labor.
  • The history of the church shows that most false teaching has been propagated by males.
  • Eve being deceived by the serpent was not an example of what goes wrong when a female usurps male leadership, but of disobeying one of God’s commands. Paul uses the same example in 2 Corinthians 11:3 to show how an entire congregation can be deceived, both males and females.
  • It’s not right for anyone to teach with the goal of dominating others.
So is 1 Timothy 2 a “timeless universal restriction” on women? Or was it written into a specific situation where certain women in Ephesus had been deceived by false teaching and were passing it on to others?  Do we run into danger if we allow a cultural understanding to balance a literal obedience to the word?
What do you think?

Photo Credit: Rich_Lem via Compfight cc

Guest post by Jon Zens: Selecting Scriptures to silence the sisters (part 3)

This comprehensive list by Jon (see parts one and two) of how God used women in the New Testament is both instructive and far-reaching.  Two passages have been used to muzzle women for centuries–1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15. But in the passages listed by Jon, we see that the trend and tenor of Scripture does not support the traditional interpretation of these two passages. And both can be interpreted with integrity in other ways. We are wise not to use individual verses to disprove or negate the general principles and examples of Scripture.

Again, my thanks to Jon.

Here is the completion of Jon’s list.

  • Junia and Andronicus (wife/husband or sister/brother) were greeted by Paul as “outstanding among the apostles” (Rom.16:7).  They were his relatives and had been in prison with him.  There were people called “apostles” who were not among the Twelve, like Barnabas.  Junia was also among such apostolic workers.  There is no reason to think that she was the only such female apostle.
  • Among all the people Paul greeted in Romans 16, ten were sisters among whom were “Tryphena and Tryphosa [who may have been twins], women who work hard for the Lord” (Rom.16:12).
  • In line with Acts 2:17-18, Paul encouraged brothers and sisters to prophesy in the gatherings (1 Cor.11:4-5; 14:23-24).
  • The open meeting Paul described in 1 Cor.14 envisioned all the men and women – “the whole assembly” – “each one of you” – “you may all prophesy one by one” – functioning together in an encouraging manner.
  • Gal.3:28 indicated that “in Christ” human distinctions, like male and female, are no longer norms of judgment in the congregation.  In the first century, prejudices abounded in folks’ minds when certain people like “Gentile,” “Jew,” “slave,” and “woman” were mentioned.  Paul stated that in the body of Christ this should not be the case.
  • Women were prominent in the assembly at Philippi, beginning with Lydia’s home.  In Phil.4:3 Paul asked for two sisters – who must have had no small spiritual influence in the body – to be at peace with one another.  He called Euodia and Syntyche “co-workers” and “co-strugglers” in the gospel.
  • 2 John is addressed to “the elect lady and her children.”  This probably referred to a respected sister in whose home the saints gathered.  She had apparently exerted significant spiritual influence upon a number of people.  Women’s homes were mentioned as meeting places for the brethren in Rom.16:5, 1 Cor.1:11, 16:9 and Col.4:15.
  • In Rev.2:20-24 Christ rebuked the Thyatiran congregation for allowing a false prophetess, nicknamed “Jezebel,” to “teach” some of the Lord’s servants to sin grievously.  If it was such a crime for a woman to teach the brethren, why didn’t the Lord just condemn the assembly for even allowing a woman to instruct others?  This incident in Thyatira implies that the assembly permitted other male and female prophets to teach the truth.  Christ’s bone to pick with them wasn’t that a woman taught, but that what she taught was false teaching.

This survey of Biblical highlights concerning women is important because it reveals the freedom of the sisters to function in the kingdom.  In the general flow of the New Testament there are no jitters about “restrictions” upon Christ’s daughters.  Such a survey should also serve as a corrective to those who squelch and intimidate the sisters by using their interpretation of two passages – 1 Cor.14:34-35 and 1 Tim.2:12 – to cancel out the ministry of sisters unfolded in other Scriptures.

It simply will not do to functionally dismiss and throw out as irrelevant all the positive revelation about women that has been presented. We can be sure that the intent of 1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-15 was not to silence the sisters. We can also be assured that it is an improper use of Scripture to elevate these two passages in a way that causes all other information about the sisters to be invalidated.

For a detailed interpretation of 1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-15, one can read my What’s With Paul and Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2 (2010)

Photo Credit: Lawrence OP via Compfight cc

Guest post by Jon Zens: selecting Scriptures to silence the sisters (part 2)

Jon Zens continues his list of examples that reveal the role of women throughout the New Testament. Women should not be silenced by the two “challenging texts”–1 Corinthians 14:34-34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15. The weight of Scripture demonstrates that women do not have to “tape their mouths.” The first post in the series can be seen here. Jon writes:

  • Jesus applauded the evangelistic efforts of the Samaritan woman (John 4:35-38).  After experiencing a revelation of Jesus, she left her jar at the well and went to her city telling men, women and children about the Messiah (John 4:28-29).  Everyone in Sychar knew about her history of broken relationships, yet she boldly proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah – a Redeemer even for those outside of Judaism!
  • In the context of Jesus’ crucifixion the male disciples fled, yet the women were present and they helped in his burial (Matt.27:55-56,61; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:55-56; John 19:25-27).
  • A woman’s testimony was disallowed as evidence in first century courts.  Yet the Lord chose females to be the first witnesses and proclaimers of his resurrection (John 20:1-2, 11-18; Luke 24:1-11, 22-24; Mark 16:1-8; Matt.28:1-11).
  • After Christ’s ascension, 120 men and women prayed together and chose a replacement for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:14-15).
  • The Spirit came upon the 120 disciples and they spoke the wonderful works of God in many foreign languages (Acts 2:1-4).
  • Some thought that what was occurring on the Day of Pentecost was evidence of too much wine, but Peter insisted that it was a fulfillment of what Joel prophesied would come to pass – “your sons and daughters will prophesy….I will pour out my Spirit on my male and female slaves and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18).  There is no suggestion that males may prophesy freely, but that females are restricted in some ways.
  • Philip the evangelist had four virgin daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9).  We would not be wrong in assuming that there were many other sisters who had this gift, not just Philip’s offspring.
  • Paul entrusted his letter to the Romans to Phoebe, and she delivered it.  She was a deacon in the assembly at Cenchrea and Paul had the highest regard for her (Rom.16:1-2).  Paul recognized her as a prostatis, which carried with it the idea of leadership (cf. 1 Thess.5:12).
  • Paul designated Priscilla and Aquila as his “co-workers” (Rom.16:3).  The same word is used with reference to people like Timothy and Titus.

To be continued:

Photo Credit: carulmare via Compfight cc

Guest post by Jon Zens: Selecting Scriptures to silence the sisters (part 1)

I am so grateful to Jon Zens and the contribution he makes to the conversation about women. Jon is a Biblical scholar who has made a long-term study of the Scriptures about women and he carries an authoritative voice on this subject. Jon is author of several books including What’s With Paul and Women? and No Will Of My Own: How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity & Personhood Jon is one of the contributors to the book I’m co-writing on women. Here are Jon’s insights.

 Is it right to use two passages to mute the voice of so many others?

 If a person you were talking with about Christ brought up John 14:28 – “because the Father is greater than I” – and used it to prove that He was human, not divine, what would you say? Well, one vital perspective you could rightly raise would be, “Now, wait a minute. You can’t just magnify this one text and negate the input of many other Scriptures that reveal more about the Lord.”

Unfortunately, there are those who do the same thing with regard to female functioning in the body of Christ. They cite 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15 as if these two passages settle once and for all that women must be silent in the ekklesia.

But is this a proper way to use Scripture? Absolutely not. One must look at all the revelation about a matter, not just a few texts. And when a person pays attention to the flow of Scripture, it is readily apparent that Christ’s daughters do not have to tape their mouths.

Consider the following overview of women’s participation in Christ’s kingdom. It is imperative for us to receive the impact of this overwhelmingly positive picture of Abraham’s daughters painted in the Scriptures. This information cannot be dismissed or forgotten when reflecting on the two “problem” passages.

  • Female prophets functioned openly and without issue in Israel.
  • Neither the Gospel narratives nor the recorded words of Jesus ever put restrictions on the ministry of women.
  • Jesus fully accepted women as his disciples and they accompanied him in his travels with the male disciples (Luke 8:1-3).  These women also supported the mission of Jesus with their own resources.  These facts may be much more significant that it initially appears.  In the first century it was unheard of for a Jewish rabbi to have female followers. Luke reports this rather matter-of-factly, yet this band of women, men and Jesus was hardly kosher to the curious onlookers as they went from city to village.
  • After Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and saw God’s salvation, Anna the prophetess “gave thanks to God and spoke of him [Jesus] to all the ones expecting redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25-38).  Anna did not just proclaim Christ to women, but to “all.”

To be continued…